Close Get Latest Internet Explorer Get Latest Firefox Get Latest Chrome

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Inova Mount Vernon Hospital
Behavioral Health Services
2501 Parker's Lane
Alexandria, VA  22306
Google map
Campus map and directions
703-664-6878

ECT, or electroconvulsive therapy, is an effective treatment option for patients who are diagnosed with a range of mental illnesses. This service is performed by highly trained clinical and nursing staff at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital. ECT is usually performed on an outpatient basis, but it is also available to inpatients. 

Electroconvulsive therapy is used to treat:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective Disorder
  • Parkinson's Disease

If you have been diagnosed with any of these disorders, tried different medications, and have continued to experience symptoms ECT may be a very effective treatment option for you. Consider scheduling a consultation with one of our treating psychiatrists to learn more.


About the procedure

The number of recommended treatments is based on the individual patient’s needs and responsiveness to the procedure. Patients receive two to three treatments per week and usually receive between six to twelve treatments per episode of care. The patient is sedated with a short-acting anesthetic. A muscle relaxant is then administered, followed by a low-voltage electrical pulse, resulting in a controlled seizure. ECT is theorized to improve the chemical pathways in the brain, permitting an adjustment to naturally occurring neuro-transmitters affecting mood and behavior. Patients are usually fully awake about 30 minutes after the treatment.

Some patients may require maintenance ECT, as a percent of the patients who respond well to a course of ECT may require continued treatment scheduled at longer intervals.


Possible side effects

ECT is considered one of the safest treatment options for medically fragile patients, including the elderly, pregnant women, and patients who have limited tolerance to some psychiatric medications. As with all forms of medical treatment, ECT has some possible side effects such as headache, muscle aches and pain, and rarely, nausea and vomiting. These side effects are minimized by the use of medications during the procedure.

Some people experience some memory loss for a short period of time. Some will experience no difficulties at all. When memory problems do occur, they usually subside. Rarely some people experience memory problems for a longer period. The psychiatrist will discuss potential side effects in greater detail during consultation.


Payment for treatment

Most health insurance plans approve ECT as a treatment option. Inova accepts most insurance plans. Before your consultation, our staff will contact your insurance provider for approval. You may be responsible for some co-pay, like most medical procedures.


Our team

Inova Mount Vernon Hospital has a dedicated ECT team of specially trained clinical staff. Our psychiatrists are well trained in ECT, and are credentialed and certified to provide this service. Our nursing staff has attended the Nursing Fellowship Program at Duke University Medical Center specializing in care of the ECT patient. Physicians and staff, along with the patient and family develop an individualized treatment plan. They will coordinate and communicate with patients and referring physicians regarding goals and progress throughout the course of treatment. We follow each patient through every treatment, from registration to post care. Our goal is to provide an excellent patient experience.


Contact us

For more information about inpatient or outpatient ECT services, or to schedule an ECT consultation, contact 703-664-6878.